The Pac-12 Conference held its annual Men’s Basketball Media Day on Thursday at the Pac-12 Networks in San Francisco, Calif. Head coach Craig Robinson and senior guard Roberto Nelson were there to represent Oregon State, and the following are their quotes from the interview session on main stage (video of the press conference is at the bottom of this article).
THE MODERATOR: We'll go ahead and get started with Coach Robinson and Roberto Nelson. We'll have an opening statement from Coach.
COACH ROBINSON: Great to see everyone. It's great to be here again, and it's especially good to be here with Roberto Nelson. I'll start out by saying we're really excited about the start of the Pac-12 basketball season. We have a lot to look forward to at Oregon State, specifically the return of Angus Brandt who was out all of last year with a torn NCL. You'll be happy to know he's back and ready to go. And also we'll have a few newcomers, one of them being Daniel Gomis, who has actually been at Oregon State for three years -- this is his third year, actually -- and has not played because he has been injured for the last two years. So there's a lot to be excited about and we're just -- we're, again, happy to be here. And why don't you guys fire away with questions.
Q. How much stronger do you think the league is this year than a year or two ago, and can you predict number of NCAA teams?
COACH ROBINSON: Well, you know, I'll answer that first question first. I think the league is going to be probably as good as it's been in the five years that I've been here. And it's going to be exciting for everyone. I don't think you're going to have a night off this year. As far as NCAA teams, I hope that they take 12. No, I'm just kidding. I would say it's not out of the realm of possibility to get five or six teams.
Q. Who picks the music that plays during your warm-ups, you or the players?
COACH ROBINSON: The players pick it, but I have veto -- I have veto rights. Roberto, who is the player who picks the most music?
ROBERTO NELSON: I would have to say probably Devon Collier. Everybody -- he has a great music selection, so everybody trusts in him that he picks the best songs. So I would say Devon.
Q. I read an article somewhere that you referred to Roberto as being on your First-Team All-Beer League. I was wondering if you could expand on that and who else would make your First-Team All-Beer League.
COACH ROBINSON: Yeah, well, that was -- that was a jab at Roberto's conditioning at that point in time. And don't pooh-pooh the All-Beer League. I've been on some beer league teams, and we have beaten a lot of guys. But it really was to let all of our guys know that at some point you'll be at a -- you will be at a point inevitably where basketball is secondary or tertiary in your development. And when you are here at Oregon State, now is not that time and we want to take our conditioning level and our play and everything seriously.
Q. Last night was a big night for the President. How is your defense going to improve?
COACH ROBINSON: You know, you see what I have to put up with? (Laughter). No, I appreciate it. And I didn't have anything to do with getting them to come together as a team, by the way. Our defense is going to be a lot better, and a lot of that has to do with the fact that both Angus Brandt and Daniel Gomis are going to be back in the fold. And I think you're going to see a better man-to-man defense from us, just because we have got a full year of it under our belt. And then guys like the guy sitting next to me and the rest of our backcourt are just in great shape. They're very physical, and they have embraced defending. And I think that's going to help us, because I thought that's where we broke down at the end of all those close games we lost last season.
Q. With the suspension of Moreland and him coming back right into Conference play, what kind of adjustments and things are you going to look for from your defense specifically on the inside in the non conference play as you guys go forward?
COACH ROBINSON: Right. Well, with Eric Moreland -- and I'll digress for a minute and tell you he's handling his suspension about as admirably as I've seen anyone handle it. So I'm really excited about that. But you can't replace an Eric Moreland. I mean, he's just a terrific player, a dynamic defender and rebounder. What we have to do is we have to replace his production as a team. So I'm asking Roberto, and I'm asking Angus, and I'm asking Daniel Gomis and Jarmal Reid all to replace his production until he gets back. And really what I think is going to happen is we're going to have more tools in our toolkit to use once Eric does comeback. I know it sounds like I'm spinning it positively, but that's how -- that's really the way I see it.
Q. Besides on your team, who are some of the new players in the league that you expect to make an impact this year?
COACH ROBINSON: Oh, wow. Well, I've been so focused on my own team I haven't paid too much tension to other folks' teams. So give me a minute while I go through my head and think of a couple. Obviously Aaron Gordon at Arizona is going to have a big impact. I mean, he's pretty well known. But I've got to tell you, I've got three newcomers on my team, Cheikh N'diaye, seven-footer from Senegal, Army-Navy Academy. He's going to have to help us out while Eric is out. But have I two guards who I'm really impressed with, Malcolm Duvivier, who is from Toronto, Canada, and Hallice Cooke who is from Union City, N.J, by way of St. Anthony. And both of those guys are going to be freshmen that are going to get significant minutes to help these guys out and I think are going to be ones to watch.
Q. Roberto, can you talk about what you have seen from the Conference, how it's evolved throughout your career? And as a follow-up to that, what can Oregon State do to try to get up into that upper half and to make a run for the NCAA Tournament?
ROBERTO NELSON: Well, the Conference is definitely deep this year and I wouldn't be surprised as well if there are multiple teams that are going to be ranked and go into the tournament. But we just got to just make sure we're doing all the necessary things. One of the things that we're focusing on this year is raising the bar and going the extra degree. So that's doing just a lot. And maximizing your potential. And like Coach said, I used to be in the beer league, but through hard work and all that, with my teammates pushing me each day and raising the bar with me, I'm in the best shape of my life. And now I can push these guys and have the freshmen come in and make sure that they're doing the right things so that we just continue to do it as the years go on and just continue to push to be in the upper half of the Pac-12.
Q. Coach, you had a bit of a turnaround two years ago, winning 11 more games than the previous year. Last year you slid back a little bit. Can you talk about what happened between those two years and what it will take to get back to that level from a couple years back?
COACH ROBINSON: Yeah, it's pretty easy to see what happened. We had to build this program from the ground up. We had a terrific recruiting class that included Roberto, Joe Burton, Angus Brandt, and Jared Cunningham. And what you saw take place last year was we had a team that was supposed to have Jared Cunningham, Angus Brandt, along with Roberto and Joe Burton, and we didn't have that. And Daniel Gomis being out, we -- I thought we were shorthanded. What we're doing to get back on track is I've got a team that's got a year more of hard edge, Pac-12 experience under their belt who lost a lot of really close games. The way I look at it, you make three or four more defensive stops and you change half of those outcomes, you have a completely different season.
THE MODERATOR: All right. That will do it. Thank you.